Warning: This post may contain spoilers.
- The Lifetime series “You” was recently acquired by Netflix and some people have called it out for its inaccurate portrayal of bookstores and references to books.
- INSIDER spoke with a longtime staff member of the Strand Bookstore in New York City, as well as the son of a rare book dealer, to see what the show got wrong in its portrayal of bookstores.
- Climate-controlled cubes in the basement of bookstores are not a thing, and rare copies of books would be for collecting rather than giving them to children.
The Lifetime show “You” is one of the most-watched series on Netflix right now, and people love it for its shocking moments, compelling characters and love of books. But book lovers have started picking up on some of the show’s literary mistakes, specifically the things the show gets wrong about the bookstore where Joe works.
INSIDER spoke with Sky Friedlander, head of the Books by the Foot department at Strand, the biggest bookstore in New York that also deals with rare books, as well as the son of a rare book dealer who goes by rocksoffjagger on Reddit, to learn more about all the literary details “You” might have gotten wrong.
Of course, it’s worth noting that lots of professions are made more cinematic for TV and movies, and this debunking is just for fun.
Chances are most rare bookstores don’t have climate-controlled cubes in the basement.
“Maybe an enormous shop like Peter Harrington would have a less dramatic version of a similar setup, but this is completely nuts. Certainly, no book shop that sells new books (especially the latest Dan Brown novel) is devoting these kinds of resources to rare books,” Redditor rocksoffjagger said.
Friedlander also said he couldn’t think of any bookstore that would have a climate-controled “cube” in its basement.
In reality, a bookstore’s most expensive books wouldn’t be kept in the basement where no one can buy them.
“A basement storage like that would be more appropriate for an archive or academic library – although I will say I’ve never seen a ‘cube’ like that before,” Friedlander said. “To me, it’s pretty clear they needed something that could visually serve the plot and act like a cage later on.”
The cube wouldn’t even actually be necessary for preserving books.
“The vast majority of books will do just fine in a room with a reasonably stable climate and minimal direct sunlight,” Redditor rocksoffjagger told INSIDER.
He added that it’d be more important to store valuable books and manuscripts in a fireproof safe rather than a properly humidified cube.
Joe gets his centuries wrong in reference to the time in which “The Three Musketeers” takes place.
In one scene, Joe is discussing “The Three Musketeers” by Alexandre Dumas with Paco. But he gets a key piece of information wrong.
“Joe says, ‘People were more civil in the 19th century,’ in reference to the fights in ‘The Three Musketeers.’ While Dumas wrote the book in the 19th century, the events take place in the 17th century, and those are the social customs it’s expressing,” said rocksoffjagger.
Read More: All of the hidden book references in “You”
A rare copy of a book most likely wouldn’t be given to a child.
“In the rare book room at Strand, we do stock books that aren’t first editions but just ‘collectibles’ that might not be worth a ton, that people just like. For example, if you walked into the Rare Book Room today you’d see a paperback copy of the ‘Aeneid,’ which is only going for $US20 or so. It’s of note because the cover was designed by a popular illustrator,” Friedlander told INSIDER.
She doesn’t understand why Joe didn’t just give Paco a cheap copy of “Don Quixote” instead of the rare, special edition.
“You don’t buy rare books to carry them around and read them,” she added.
Book binding would likely be done much more delicately.
“I’m not a bookbinder, so I won’t speak to the accuracy of the scene in which he repairs the binding on the torn ‘Don Quixote,’ but I can say with confidence a real conservator would not just tear off the old binding,” rocksoffjagger said.
He said it was probably done that way for dramatic, cinematic purposes. But in reality, it likely would have been done using “appropriate tools and solvents to avoid causing any more harm to the pages than had already been done.”
Joe was pretty nonchalant about Benji tearing up all the books in his cube and, to experts, it doesn’t make sense.
While he’s locked up in the book cube, Benji destroys a lot of the rare books. But both viewers and experts are a bit confused as to why Joe left the books in the cube with an angry hostage in the first place.
“If you love books so much, Joe, why wouldn’t you clear them out before you lock someone in your cube? Inquiring minds want to know,” said Friedlander.
Experts and viewers also cannot fathom how Joe was so calm and unreactive about the books being destroyed.
“I have to figure that’s tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of dollars in damage,” rocksoffjagger told INSIDER. “For a store to devote those kinds of resources to a book cube, I’m assuming they actually have something worth protecting in it.”
Considering he’s the manager, Joe doesn’t do much at the bookstore and Friedlander said it’s not realistic.
“I love how he’s never really doing anything at the store but like, wearing an apron and maybe sweeping a bit,” Friedlander said, noting he’d be a lot busier than that if he actually was fulfilling his role.
“If he was a real bookstore [manager], he would be returning a lost child to her mother, recommending books to tourists, cleaning up spilled coffee, fixing displays – a million things.”